7.5 Takeaways from Word of Mouth Marketing

Writing a review of the book Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz would be commonplace but we’re going to do something a little different. The book was good-that’s the review you get! We can’t say there was anything revolutionary but, it did bring up points that we often forget.

We are going to present 7.5 things that we found most interesting from the book. The book offers a lot of great things you can do to generate instant word of mouth that we won’t talk about. You’ll have to read the book for that. You can check out the book’s website for other useful tidbits as well.

1. People Love to Talk

If there is one thing that people love to do, it’s talk. We spend a lot of time talking to each other. Whole businesses are built on the concept that we want to talk. 

Coffee shops may sell coffee but a great deal of foot traffic comes from people who want to talk over a drink. The same thing goes for bars and restaurants. The drinks or food serves as a means to facilitate conversation.

And what do we talk about? Everything. What we did yesterday. The funny thing that happened today. The great story from last night. Maybe even the news. As long as we are alive, we will have something to talk about.

Sometimes the conversation will involve a brand, a product, a store, or some sort of business. Maybe it was a terrible experience at Starbucks or a great deal at H&M.; We might have seen a really creative advertisement. A RedBull car could have stopped by and gave us a can of RedBull on our way to work.

No matter what the conversation is about, we love to talk. We want to share stories with friends and family. With the social web, we share things with our virtual networks and they spread even faster. The challenge is this: how do we make ourselves talk worthy? Why would someone talk about our product or company over another? People are already talking, how do we give them a reason to talk about us?

2. It’s Not Just the Internet

Word of mouth is not just about the Internet. Sernovitz says that 80% of all word of mouth happens in the real world. 

A lot of word of mouth does happen offline. Word of mouth existed well before the Internet and will continue to exist with or without the Internet.

While the internet has made spreading ideas and messages easier, word of mouth is not a concept derived from the Internet. As a marketer, we can use the Internet as a tool to help the spread of word of mouth along but, we shouldn’t forget about the real world. There are a great many ways that we can create word of mouth offline.

Retailers have commonly used signs for “Sales” on their windows and “Buy 2 get 1 FREE” deals. TD Bank formerly Commerce Bank used their free coin counting tool, the Penny Arcade, as a word of mouth vehicle. They count your coins for free regardless of whether or not you have an account with them. Penny Arcade is also a game so people wanted to go inside a TD Bank branch just to check it out.

Word of mouth marketing is any means, online or offline, that can get people to talk about your company or brand in their daily conversations.

3. What’s In It For Me?

No matter what anyone says, we always care about ourselves. That doesn’t mean we are selfish but, we always frame things as it relates to us. 

There is nothing wrong with it. We just need to realize this as marketers. It isn’t about our company or our products. It is about the customer’s problems or needs.

Potential customers do not care about how great your company or products are. They care about how their problems can be solved and their wants satisfied.

Bad dates are the ones who just talk about themselves non-stop. Every thought turns into something about themselves. Good dates are interested in you and want to genuinely learn and listen. This applies to every type of relationship as well. Thus, success in word of mouth marketing requires understanding the customer first.

It is about listening and understanding the customer and then offering a solution if you have one. If you cannot help a potential customer, don’t be afraid to direct them somewhere else. If they ever do need your services, they will remember your candidness and kindness and find you. They might even tell a friend who does need your services!

4. Talkers Aren’t Always Big Spenders

Sometimes the person who gets most excited about a brand or company is not the one who spent thousands of dollars but, the one who just bought a small item. 

Since a customer’s level of talk is not directly proportional to the amount they spend, we need to treat every customer well. There is nothing wrong with giving your customers who often spend a lot of extra attention but, it doesn’t mean we should barely care about the little guy.

Every customer, regardless of size of purchase, should be treated well. This will get the word of mouth marketing process started, even if profits will marginal. It is the job of the company to make sure that every customer gets what they are looking for and understands what they are buying. Everyone should experience good customer service. There is no way to tell if a small spender will spend more in the future or has friends who are big spenders.

We need to take into account the people who our customers can influence when they talk about us. One customer making a small one time purchase may not be worth the service effort inside a vacuum but, if that customer brings in three more customers because of positive word of mouth: the math changes.

5. Honesty is the Best Policy

We’ve always been told that honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately, marketers are sometimes seen as manipulators. It is generally very refreshing for a customer to interact with an honest marketing person.

With the ease and rapid spread of information on the internet, there is no room for companies to lie. Reviews on Amazon quickly point out defects or false promises. Stating that your product is of “high quality” and then having customers report that it is actually just cheap plastic, is going to result in a PR nightmare.

These nightmares may have been easy to control when the only means people had to hear about it was through the news or their local neighbors but now, the whole world can find out in a blink of an eye by using Google. That is a negative word of mouth that we would all like to avoid.

The best way to avoid such nightmares is to be honest in the first place. Don’t advertise what you do not know to be true. Not only is that not ethical marketing but, the wool can’t be pulled over the consumers eyes for very long anymore.

6. Encourage Stealing

The idea of encouraging stealing may seem extremely counter-intuitive but, the less barriers we put on our work, the quicker it spreads. 

The logic behind this is that spreading your brand or idea will provide a greater benefit to you than meticulously hoarding everything. Because word of mouth marketing needs to get people talking, having a stolen item or content serves as a match to ignite the filre.

I would not say that we should give everything away for free. Businesses do need to make money and it takes money and effort to develop our products. There are things that we can “give away” that do not diminish the value of our own work but also increase the value of the work of others.

Take YouTube as an example. YouTube begs you to steal their video and embed it on our own site. Every video on YouTube comes with code that you can just copy and paste. How many YouTube videos have we watched while we were on other sites? I think we can safely assume it is a lot.

Every brand is going to have to approach this differently but the idea is to make it easy for people to take things that you have produced and present it to an audience that you might have never been able to reach. If you conduct research, make graphs with your logo on it and make them available.

If we can get away from the notion that we must viciously protect every single thing that we create, there are many new opportunities to spread our brands and messages far and wide.

7. Marketing is What you Do, Not What You Say

There is an old saying that goes, “actions speak louder than words”. This has always been the case. 

Talk is cheap. It doesn’t matter what marketing message we want to hammer into our consumers, if we don’t deliver on it when they interact with us, we might as well have flushed that money down the toilet.

Traditionally, marketers were only concerned about reaching an audience and getting them to buy a product. That was it. Whatever the people on the floor or in customer service did was not a problem of ours. Well, with the advent of social media, that has all changed. Now you need them to talk as well- the essence of word of mouth marketing.

It is now our job to make sure that we not only reach the audience and bring them to the store but, we also need to make sure that their experience with us is congruent with our message. And that’s not all! The entire customer relationship process needs to match as well.

We can spend millions of dollars telling people how great we are but, if we don’t deliver, our facade will be dissolved on blogs and social networks. We have to make sure that every point of interaction with a customer is as close to the experience we promise as possible.

7.5 Say “Thank You”

This one is a no-brainer except we tend to forget it. Those two little words can make all the difference. 

Remembering to thank our customers will also help keep us humble. We can’t forget that it is the customer’s choice to do business with us. They can very well take their business somewhere else and put us out of business.

We don’t suggest you say thank you in a fake manner as we’ve often noticed from customer service calls directed to India. They are clearly reading a script and just saying polite things because they were trained to do so. They may as well be robots as it does not feel sincere.

In the same way that we show appreciation to our friends and family, as a brand, we should remember to show appreciation to our customers!

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